This past Fall, I was introduced to a gem of a book that was particularly timely for me to read. It’s a book that needs to be digested slowly; its meat is easily lost on me if I don’t sit with it a while and chew on it. I want it to stick to my inner parts. It’s a book I wish I had in hand three years ago. But I know I wouldn’t have the same eyes to read it with which I do now.
I’m on the other side of three years; I can more clearly distinguish which parts I served out of the true parts of who I am and the parts that were my false self, the parts of me that were ego, worried about what people thought, or done out of a drivenness to perform. Because as much as I was aware and tried to consciously fight off the parts in me that would be temped to find my identity in the roles I’ve had the last three years, let’s face it, my ego still crept in.
I’ve wanted to so badly find the words to process on here a bit of this new season of quiet and smallness, of getting back to the core of my being instead of doing in light of preceding years, but I don’t have them yet. Or I haven’t been released from my Father to write, but there’s so much stirring. One day it might explode in this space. But until then, this is one way I get to process with you in this.
The book I’m chewing on is Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. She writes,
Before calling has anything to do with doing, it has everything to do with being that essence of yourself that God knew before the foundations of the earth, that God called into being and that God alone truly knows…Some of the best hints about who we really are come from memories of unguarded moments in childhood and youth, moments when we were caught up in the essence of being rather than driven by self-conscious doing and performing.
You’re gonna laugh, because of course I should take time to reflect upon my own childhood self in moments I was completely and unreservedly myself, like when I’d get lost in a Nancy Drew book or start breaking out in sign language to a worship song in the middle of a restaurant parking lot. Instead, my mind wandered to something that was a little bit closer to my life currently (and thus not soooo far back in the recesses of my mind) <grin>: my own two children.
I love my children. And I love how they’ve unknowingly invited me into simplicity and wonder. I watch them freely able to be themselves without a care or worry about what others think of them. That such concern has crept a little into Brennan this year as he started Kindergarten, and it pains me to see. But for the most part, the ability to simply be a child and comfortable in his own skin, even goofy at times, is still brightly there. Here are the ways I see freedom to be their true selves lived out in them that serves as an invitation for me to do the same.
- If her ears hear music in the background, whether at home, the grocery store, or at Brennan’s swim team, she will bust out some moves, asking you over and over to watch her twirl or practice her “heel, toe” dance step.
- His unabashed enthusiasm playing with friends, greeting them first thing at school with pats on the back and arms around the shoulders.
- How quickly he can transform into a cheetah, lion, or alligator.
- The twinkle and sparkle in his eyes when he cocks his head to the side and grins after saying something funny.
- The cumulative hours he’s spent outside throwing the football in the air or shooting baskets, pretending to be any number of football and basketball teams, racing inside to draw pictures of them and score cards.
- Her unreserved generosity of sharing food and gifts she receives. Her complete, natural joy in serving because that’s just her.
- With the gift of clarity of speech and experiencing dance class and preschool, her desire to direct and teach in front of anybody willing to lend her an ear. It could be pretend school, dance class, or doling out specific instructions of how she will clear the table and sing you “Happy Birthday”. If you don’t do exactly what she tells you, you are guilty of “disobeying."
- He still lifts his shirt for me to stroke his back and sing “Alleulia, Alleluia” to him before bed. He wholeheartedly loves lovies.
- Her nurturing heart to mother, care for, tend to not only her dolls but to others. I have been the recipient of much grace through the following affirmations with her gentle arm wrapped around my neck: “Momma, it’s ok; Jesus is in the car with us; He’s crawling up from your toes and into your heart”.
- The unreserved tears both of them have when hurt or scared. And while some of the responses to their feelings are ones we are trying to shape to not be hurtful or disconnecting to themselves and others, they are still uninhibited to let their true feelings of be known.
- Their losing time in made-up stories and books.
- His bravery in jumping in that water to swim alongside 17 year olds, assured that he can do it.
- Her scratch may have healed days ago, but it’s no wonder because we prayed for it every single time we sat down for prayer. It’s widely known if we forgot to include it in the dinner prayer.
- Their watchful eyes for pretty flowers and rocks (!!!) on a bike ride, not rushed to get to the next thing.
I know I will have a part in the entanglement of their false selves with their true ones. That’s the painful reality that I am a sinner and broken, and my family experiences that part of me firsthand. Life will also inevitably hold the hard stuff that will shape them, too. Lord, have mercy.
Maybe one day they’ll look back at this blog and come across these records of who they were as children in free abandon. And I pray that when those times come that what is most true about them may get lost or hidden, that they will have the courage and the grace to look back and remember who they are to the core of their being: as ones deeply, deeply loved by their Maker.